On 9 April 2019, Brazilian law firm Advocacia Garcez and lawyers for the Unions Siticop MG and the Brumadinho Workers Union filed a class action against Vale in the Labour Court of Betim, Minas Gerais. 

The lawsuit claims up to R5 billion (U$1.24 billion) on behalf of families of deceased workers and workers injured or affected by the collapse of Vale’s Córrego de Feijão dam in Brumadinho on 25 January 2019.

Advocacia Garcez is also now willing to assist individuals and businesses with environmental claims against Vale for damage to land and property and personal injuries caused by the Brumadinho dam collapse.

Advocacia Garcez has secured assistance from UK human rights law firm Leigh Day and Motley Rice LLC, one of the largest U.S. plaintiffs’ law firms, in both the workers’ lawsuit and the environmental lawsuit. These three firms have entered into a cooperation agreement under which the legal proceedings will be conducted by Advocacia Garcez.

Leigh Day and Motley Rice will assist as consultants, as directed by Advocacia Garcez, dealing with issues outside Brazil in regarding environmental and personal injury class action litigation.

Leigh Day and Motley Rice have successfully represented claimants in landmark environmental tort litigation. Examples of their work include Leigh Day’s representation of victims of oil pollution claims against Royal Dutch Shell for 15,000 Nigerian fisherman and toxic waste dumping claims against Trafigura for 30,000 residents of Cote D’Ivoire. In March 2019 Leigh Day succeeded in persuading the UK Supreme Court to allow a case for Zambian communities alleging contamination from a copper mine to proceed against Vedanta plc.

Motley Rice represented victims and its founder Joseph F. Rice was one of the lead negotiators of settlements with BP and Haliburton for harm resulting from the Deepwater Horizon disaster which killed 11 oil rig workers and spilled close to five million gallons of crude oil into U.S. Gulf Coast waters. One of the settlements is the largest civil class action settlement in U.S. history. Motley Rice has also litigated lead pigment poisoning cases on behalf of government entities against the lead pigment industry, including 10 cities and counties in California. This California-based litigation resulted in a verdict of hundreds of millions of dollars for the lead abatement of homes in the jurisdictions that were constructed prior to 1951.

Both Leigh Day and Motley Rice were engaged as consultants to counsel in South Africa, representing miners, and their dependents, who developed silicosis while working in the gold mines. It has resulted in a historic settlement, an important mediation and the first class action of its kind in the county, providing unprecedented relief to tens of thousands of miners and their dependents.

Richard Meeran, Head of the International Department at Leigh Day, said: “Leigh Day is delighted to be asked to assist Advocacia Garcez in ensuring that Vale is held legally accountable for the tragedy we believe it has caused.”

“Motley Rice is ready to lend our experience in complex civil litigation to Advocacia Garcez, in order that his clients may obtain justice and accountability for this preventable catastrophic disaster in Brazil,” says Motley Rice member, Michael Elsner.

A press briefing will be held at 11am on 29 May at sindicato dos jornalistas de Belo Horizonte (union of journalists from Belo Horizonte) Av. Álvares Cabral, 400 - Centro, Belo Horizonte - MG, 30170-000 with Maximiliano Garcez and representatives from Leigh Day.